These muscle-like textiles made from cellulose yarn can respond to low-voltage electricity to contract just like actual muscle fibers. Clothing made from such a material could help those with disabilities enhance their mobility by providing a far more light-weight alternative to cumbersome exoskeletons.
It could also help otherwise healthy people who have physically intensive jobs lessen their load.
“Like a muscle, the actuation is triggered by an electrical potential, driven by a chemical reaction, and operated in an electrolyte,” says study author Edwin Jager, an applied physicist at Linköping University, Sweden.
The fabric was first knitted and woven so it matched the structure of real muscle. It was then bathed in an electroactive solution to make it responsive to electricity. This rather simple recipe allows the fabric to exhibit properties similar to biological muscle, as reported in Science Advances.